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Pelosi won't budge on troop pullback dates in war funding bill

  • Story Highlights
  • Rep. Murtha suggests a compromise for funding for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Bush may accept restrictions if timetable for withdrawal was extended, Murtha says
  • Speaker Pelosi continues to push for a troop withdrawal from Iraq by 2009
  • GOP seizes on Murtha's statement that "the surge is working..."
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top Democrat who had hinted that a compromise on war funding was possible appeared to back away from the idea Friday as the Democratic congressional leadership refused to consider it.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Democrats will not try to pass additional war funding this year.

On Thursday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, said he and the White House Iraq coordinator Gen. Douglas Lute discussed a compromise in which Congress would provide additional funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if the administration accepted readiness standards for the troops sent into battle and a ban on the use of torture.

The Democrats' part of the compromise would be to extend the time period in which they would demand that troops be withdrawn from Iraq, Murtha said.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi showed no sign of accepting such a compromise and said the Democratic Congress would not pass a war funding bill other than the one that had already passed the House.

"We have provided every penny that is currently necessary to fund Defense Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world," Pelosi said. "It is President Bush and his Republican allies in the Senate who are preventing extra funds from reaching our troops."

On Friday, Murtha appeared to back away from supporting the compromise, saying "the fact remains that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily" and that the Iraqi government has failed to capitalize on "window of opportunity" created by the additional U.S. troops.

Murtha and called for "an orderly redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as practicable."

"The House of Representatives has passed a $50 billion funding bill that provides the president, our troops, and our nation with a responsible plan for bringing our troops home," Murtha said. "The president should heed the advice of the American people and allow this funding bill to become law."

Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would have provided $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would have required the president to start withdrawing troops from Iraq 30 days after the bill passed, with the goal of having all combat troops out by the end of 2008.

The White House objected to the restrictions, and Bush's Republican allies blocked the bill in the Senate after it failed to achieve the 60 votes need to advance.

Murtha, who heads the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees defense spending, had suggested the congressional leadership may be willing to consider a longer withdrawal timetable.

"We can get the troops out, but we can't get the equipment out probably in less than in two years." Murtha said. "That's where I think the compromise can be."

Murtha also said the strategy of sending an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq, dubbed "the surge," had created an improved security situation in the country.

"The military situation has improved substantially," Murtha said. "I think the surge is working, but that's only one element...That's because of the increase in troops."

Republicans quickly seized Murtha's comments about the surge and circulated them to the media. Many Democratic lawmakers have argued that the president's surge strategy was not succeeding.

"With one of the Democrats' leading war critics now saying the surge in Iraq is working, it's difficult to understand why the majority continues to push an irresponsible withdrawal plan that jeopardizes critical support funding for our troops," House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said.

The White House has been increasing pressure on Congress to provide additional funding. On Thursday, Bush called on Congress to pass additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before lawmakers leave for their Christmas break.

"Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department," Bush said. "The warning has been laid out for the United States Congress to hear."

But a spokesman for Pelosi, Nadeam Elshami, said Democratic leaders do not plan to change this timeline or bring anything back to the floor before Congress leaves for the year.

"The speaker has said we will not initiate any funding legislation for the war this year," Elshami said. "The House has already passed $50 billion." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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